In an effort to curb the large budget deficit the city of Everett is facing, Mayor Franklin has opted to end neighborhood mailings such as quarterly newsletters and postcard mailers, as well as the Monte Cristo Award Ceremony. Franklin broke the news in an email from April 11 and was met with some resistance at the following City Council meeting.
The city currently spends $37,000 annually on neighborhood mailings, and that figure doesn’t include the cost to staff that effort. Mayor Franklin believes that paperless neighborhood associations are achievable and that other cities have done the same.
Meghan Pembroke, the Communications Director for the City of Everett, was quick to clarify that eliminating the awards ceremony doesn’t mean eliminating the program, just how the awards are doled out. She also echoed the sentiment that the Monte Cristo awards didn’t produce the kind of lasting engagement they’d like to see within the neighborhoods.
See below for a copy of the email.
Dear neighborhood leaders,
I would like to thank each one of you for participating in your neighborhoods. The work you do enhances our community’s capacity to look after each other in emergencies, support our youth and engage with community members in new ways. This kind of involvement and commitment is absolutely essential to our City and I truly appreciate what you do.
As you may know, I issued directives in January and February of this year to help guide the City's work in 2018 and beyond. They include a directive on community engagement and inclusion and another charging City staff in all departments to develop strategies for addressing the ongoing structural budget deficit. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to review the mayoral directives.
At the same time that we focus on improving engagement with all members of our community, we must ensure we are controlling costs and allocating our limited resources in the most effective way possible. The projected deficit for 2019 is more than $13 million, and the gap grows larger in the following years. We will have to make tough decisions about how we provide services and where we may be able to make changes.
We are looking at options across all departments for closing the growing budget gap, as well as evaluating existing programs and events for engagement effectiveness and how well they align with our priorities. This includes taking a look at all the ways the Office of Neighborhoods provides support to our neighborhood associations.To better align our resources with our current priorities, I have directed staff to begin phasing out neighborhood mailings with the goal of ending the service in 2019. Currently, Everett spends about $37,000 a year on neighborhoods mailings, in addition to staff time, and is one of few cities in the area that send monthly mailings on behalf of neighborhoods. Through our research, we have found that paper-free neighborhood associations can be very successful in their outreach and communication efforts. We will work with you over the next year to provide trainings and support around more cost-effective communication methods such as social media, websites and email.
We have also looked into the cost and engagement effectiveness of the annual Monte Cristo Awards. Unfortunately, despite additional funds, resources and staff hours in recent years, this program does not lead to the kind of lasting engagement we want with our community members. I have directed the team to cancel the 2018 event and work with our neighborhood leaders to explore more cost-effective and engaging ways of providing the awards.
Our neighborhoods are essential to our city and each and every one of you plays an important role in our community. I know these changes may be difficult, and we are committed to working with all of you to implement them in a positive and intentional way. I have asked Julie Frauenholtz, who is leading the community engagement directive, to work with you and the Office of Neighborhoods team on these efforts.
Thank you again for your leadership and commitment to Everett. Please reach out to me or the Office of Neighborhoods team with any questions.
Cassie Franklin Mayor City of Everett